City water main break leaves Archdale family with the clean up bill

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

Our homes are our greatest investments, so what would you do if your property was ruined through no fault of your own?

That's what happened to the Philips' home in Archdale.

They cared for their property, but all the care in the world couldn't prevent what happened when a water main underneath their driveway broke, sending water into their home.

Some of the damage it caused is still a problem.

"Every time it rains even now we still get water under the house," Debroah Phillips said.

When the main burst, they immediately called the city of Archdale, who sent a crew out to repair the problem, but they were left with the task of cleaning-up their water-logged house.

After the family requested it, the city's insurance company, Trident Insurance Services, sent out an insurance adjuster, but the claim was denied.

FOX8 called the company to ask why the claim was denied and they said they "do not comment on claims," but in a letter sent to the Phillips, the insurance company said the city of Archdale, "had no knowledge of existing leaks" therefore, they must deny the claim.

"I'm not certain how I was supposed to know there was a problem with a pipe buried under my driveway... on city property," Deborah exclaimed.

FOX8 also spoke with Archdale's City Manager, who acknowledged the situation, but said it is up to the insurance company to decide claims.

So what can the Phillips do? Attorney Lisa Lainer says filing a lawsuit would not be easy in the situation.

"Cities and towns are all over the map as to whether you can sue them," Lainer said.

Some cities claim sovereign immunity, meaning the city can't be held liable for a legal wrong. Archdale is not claiming that, but for a successful lawsuit, the family would have to prove negligence.

"You would have to show that the city was on notice of prior leaks or aging infrastructure," Lainer advised.

The city of Archdale has not had an inordinate amount of water main leaks or breaks and crews regularly flush the system. No one is really at fault--the water main just burst.

"Sometimes municipalities will say we don`t have a legal obligation to do this. We are going to help you with this. They certainly have the ability to do that if they choose to do that," Lainer said.

However, the city of Archdale says they won't pay, and that means the Phillips are left with a $3,000 bill to repair their home.

"My children lay their heads above this crawl space and I`m terrified of mold," Deborah said.